When it comes to earning a dignified, living wage from freelance writing, a few common-sense rules need to be applied, especially if you want to do this long term.
Before we even begin, let tell you about a scenario, and please tell me if it sounds familiar:
You’re interested in making a little extra money, maybe even pay a few bills, maybe even rent if you can manage this month. You heard that freelancing can be a very lucrative way to make a quick buck, especially due to the low barrier of entry. You registered at several popular jobs boards like Freelancer.com, Upwork, etc… and perhaps you even wanted to take your chances on Fiverr. You notice the staggeringly low rates that people seem to be charging for volumes of content. Your heart sinks at the prospect of writing over 1000 words for somewhere between $30 and $50.
Welcome to the world of the content mill: a dystopian hell where writers are forced to use their creativity to compete against an underpaid, overworked global network of desperate workers. Gone are the days of landing clients that will pay you inordinate sums to spin out junk articles.
If this situation sounds like something you’re familiar with, don’t worry, there is much, much more to being a freelance writer than trying to grind out a meager living for substandard wages. If you want to make good money, the kind that can comfortably support a family while working a very reasonable number of hours, there are several things you need to keep in mind.
How Much Do You Really Want To Be Paid?
Are you just trying to make a little bit of beer money or are you trying to switch your career? The answer to that question will determine which avenue will be the best for you. If you’re just trying to make a little money here and there, Freelancer.com and Upwork are perfectly fine avenues and you’ll probably be able to make a couple hundred dollars, and maybe a thousand or two in a month or less.
However, since you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume that you have deeper aspirations and want to make freelancing a viable career. Before you continue, ask yourself the following question:
How much money do I want to make?
Once you know the answer to that, the path you need to take will unravel before you. If you want to make the median American income of $35,977, then you’ll need to bring in a little under $3000 per month. That means you need to make $100 per day. What does that mean in terms of your work? If you’re charging $0.05 per word, that’s 2000 words – every single day without fail, a strenuous job, or 2800 words Monday through Friday with no vacations. Personally, I can max out at around 5000 words but I can’t do that every day without a hollow feeling developing in the core of my being. LOL! To be honest, creativity needs a break once in a while and you will probably burn out pretty quickly if you keep doing that long term.
So, let’s say you then switch to getting paid $0.10 per word. You would only have to do 1400 words per day Monday through Friday. Not that bad. What about $0.15 or more? What if you want to make more money?
To be honest, there are no hard limits to how much you can earn as a freelance writer. Copywriters who get paid by the project can easily earn six figures once they gain a stable roster of repeat clients. First figure out how much money you want and calculate how much you need to earn per word.
Where To Get High Paying Jobs
The truth is that the overwhelming majority of high paying jobs aren’t found on any job boards or publicly available forums. Whether you’re trying to land a rockstar copywriting client that will pay you $XX,XXX for a landing page or you’re simply trying to write articles for blogs, newspapers and other publications, most high paying jobs are found through three avenues.
- Word of mouth.
- Writing to website owners, editors, and other decision-makers in organizations.
Let’s examine each method carefully, because depending on your niche, you may have to adjust your strategy.
Word of Mouth
This is, in my opinion, the best way to get new customers. It’s also a bit of a catch 22 because in order to get clients, you already need to have clients. However, the basic setup is fairly simple: do a good job. When you perform you work well and submit it in a timely manner, people pay attention. They start taking you seriously and begin to trust your work ethic. They also start talking about you with their colleagues. Let’s say that you created a masterful article for a blog owner that credited you for your work publicly. Ask yourself the following: how many people are going to see my piece and want to contact me for work?
Here’s an open secret in the freelance industry: good content sells itself. Despite the number of writers available on the planet, only a minority are able to deliver their work on time, spell-checked and grammatically correct on every level. Out of that subset, an even smaller percentage of authors are able to consistently put out high-quality writing day after day. When you start getting clients due to the quality of the work you supply on a regular basis, you won’t even have to advertise yourself anymore. You’ll be swamped by a long waiting list of people that will pay you $0.30 or more per word – every day.
Writing to Website Owners, Editors and Other Decision Makers in Organizations
The second best way to find new clients is to write to people within a company that are responsible for the accruement of new talent and specifically people whose primary job is to make sure new content is uploaded on a daily or weekly basis. How do you find such people? Google it :-). Seriously. Just type “niche + website” or “niche + blog” and you’ll get millions of results.
Or use two of my favorite websites:
If you’ve ever glanced at my personal LinkedIn account, I have 500+ connections. This isn’t by accident. Back when I was a liquidator, I needed to get a lot of connections in order to find people that would buy my products wholesale. LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for connecting with business owners and other people that regularly hire writers for pieces. I have friends that have landed $0.50 per word and $1 per word gigs as well as high dollar monthly recurring clients from that website alone.
Thomas is also a great website for contacting decision-makers across various industries. There are thousands upon thousands of business leaders who leave their full contact information for other businesses to find. Find you niche and start contacting people.
When contacting CEOs, etc… most people will blow you off. In fact, less than 1% will even give you the time of day to hear what you have to say. It’s kind of like dating, in a bizarre way: the princess has to kiss a lot of toads to find the right one. Don’t lose faith. You only need one or two clients to start making a big splash in your niche. Sometimes that can take a couple of weeks, a month, or even longer. Keep going.
This is pretty simple: if you’re able to, go to events where writers converge. If you’re living in a big city in a first-world nation, there should be one almost every month. Connect with other writers and if you find a few that feel overworked, ask them to pass along some of the work for a referral fee or a percentage of the initial work. It’s great because you end up helping each other and you get a mentor that can help you along in the field.
Don’t Ignore Jobs Boards
Lastly, don’t completely dismiss jobs boards. I’ve had multiple report to me that they were able to land some very lucrative jobs by replying to niche specific boards. If your industry had something like that, shoot your shot. You never know what may work. However, use common sense – if something doesn’t feel right, don’t go for it. Good clients are usually upfront about paying living wages and will include it in their advertisements. Don’t waste time with tire kickers that will leave you more dried up than a used husk.
I hope this article helped to illustrate how to find good clients and increase your income. If you have any questions or comments, post them below and I’ll try to answer them.